October 26, 2021
The Advantages of Building NFT Solutions on SKALE
NFTs are a growing category in crypto because they show the value that Ethereum and web3 can provide. NFT image sets such as CryptoPunks, EtherRocks, and Bored Apes may have gained the initial headlines, but the impact will go way beyond this. The digitization of virtual and physical goods as unique and identifiable assets will transform all sectors of society — from art, entertainment and media to business and commerce and everywhere in between.
SKALE’s multi-chain network lets brands, artists, and builders mint, transact, and manage NFTs of all types and categories. It offers many advantages for NFT-based solutions including zero cost minting, scalable and fast decentralized on-chain operations, extensive on-chain file storage, Ethereum-native tooling and support, and more.
Let’s go through some of these benefits in more detail.
By now, everyone understands that minting on the Ethereum Mainnet doesn’t really work for the majority of NFT types. High value NFTs might still use the Mainnet, but most need NFT solutions that mint in a more cost effective way. Many Eth-killers and Layer2 solutions tout themselves as an answer to high minting costs, but all they do is offer up a similar gas-based transaction model to what exists today. While these networks might serve as a stop-gap solution, their transaction fees are likely to be highly volatile and susceptible to huge spikes if network usage were to grow.
SKALE Chains are different in that they are provisioned by chain owners and as a result are gas free for users. This gasless dynamic means that minting and trading operations on a SKALE Chain costs virtually nothing – aside from what a dapp developer might want to charge. Taking this transaction friction out of NFTs immediately makes many NFT-based applications economically viable, where they may not be on the Mainnet or on other solutions.
High Throughput and Fast Finality
High throughput and fast, decentralized transactions are two other key components of the SKALE Network. All transactions on a SKALE Chain are validated onchain via a Proof of Stake consensus. Validator nodes are drawn from a large validator pool selected at random and rotated frequently. (We go through a few of the security aspects of the SKALE Network below.) This consensus model gives each SKALE Chain the ability to handle up to 2000 transactions per second (TPS) with transactions finalizing within seconds.
Other solutions might make similar claims, but don’t forget to read the fine print. The TPS number above is for each SKALE Chain, which means that 500 chains can handle up to 1,000,000 transactions per second. As for finality, many rollup solutions for example either take significant time upfront to calculate a fraud proof (zk rollups) or have multi-day contest periods which means that transactions won’t finalize until these periods end (optimistic rollups). For more on this, see Stan’s recent episode on Block transactions vs. finality.
SKALE Chains are true decentralized blockchains that use advanced cryptography (BLS rollups) and a robust ABBA consensus model to execute and validate transactions in a resource efficient, secure, and highly performant manner. (Details on these subjects can be found here and here.)
One of the big challenges with NFTs is to preserve what is stored at given a URL (in other words, unless approaches are taken to preserve the storage, items could be switched, as is the case with “rick-rolling” NFTs). A number of developers are using the Pinata/IPFS protocol to address storage issues by providing a form of storage escrow whereby storage can be paid for for a period of time by the seller but then transferred securely to the owner. This takes work and can complicate the workflow but does provide protection against malicious NFT data switches.
Another NFT storage challenge is insuring the storage location is highly available and robust – hence the reliance on decentralized storage and/or cloud storage. Given that the NFT links to the metadata and any associated data files, data access to the data must be persistent and data itself fault tolerant and redundant.
The SKALE Network contains significant node storage and provides an alternate solution for NFT data in the form of SKALE Filestorage. Each SKALE Chain contains up to 570GB of onchain storage capacity separate from block data. This data is persisted within the node network of the chain and all write operations to this storage are managed via the SKALE consensus model.
This built-in storage approach means that developers can make use of this storage within their contracts and the write operations will take place as a part of the chain transaction execution and validation operation. Chain owners can elect to persist this data on its own as separate standalone decentralized file storage should they wish to do so.
SKALE IMA Bridge
SKALE’s Interchain Messaging Agent (IMA) Bridge is another key network feature that allows for seamless and secure exchange of tokens to and from SKALE Chains and the Ethereum Mainnet. This network bridge offers an optimal combination of high security, fast transfer speed, preservation of custody, cost efficiency, and customization. The SKALE IMA Bridge achieves all these attributes by making use of BLS cryptography, Ethereum mainnet smart contracts, Proof of Stake consensus, and other unique aspects of its design. This bridge lets developers and users safely and economically transfer digital assets between the Ethereum mainnet and any SKALE Chain. These digital assets can include ETH, ERC20, ERC721, and ERC1155 tokens as well as general messaging data.
For more details on the SKALE IMA Bridge, please see our detailed writeup here.
Ethereum-Native Tooling and Support
The SKALE execution model is fully compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) making it so that smart contracts that run on the Ethereum Mainnet can also run on the SKALE Network. There is no need to rewrite or port smart contracts. Anything written for the EVM will execute on SKALE. Developers are therefore able to migrate to SKALE Chains in a phased manner – moving smart contracts to SKALE on an individual basis as the needs and benefits dictate.
Developer Tool Support
Support for Solidity and the Ethereum VM also extends to commonality with many Ethereum developer tools. That means developers are able to use the same tools they use when working on the Ethereum Mainnet. These include connecting to the network via web3.js and web3.py as well as using tools such as Truffle and Remix.
The SKALE Network supports all major Ethereum token standards including ETH, ERC20, ERC721, ERC777, ERC1155, and Dai. The SKALE IMA Bridge ensures the integrity and fidelity of token operations between SKALE Chains and Ethereum.
Common Wallet Support
The SKALE Network supports a number of major crypto wallets and browser plugins and bridges. These include Metamask, Bitski, Magic, Portis, Torus, and more. These interface components are well-regarded in the community and used by thousands of developers.
The design of the SKALE Network makes it incredibly well suited to NFT-based solutions. The no-cost/low-cost nature of its transaction model means that the costs to mint, trade, and manage NFTs become almost non-existent. SKALE’s high capacity multi-chain approach means it can easily handle the most demanding NFT marketplace or app needs. Its Eth-native approach and support for Eth-based wallets, ERC standards, languages and tools make it easy for any Ethereum developer to make use of SKALE Chains. Its security and operational ties to Ethereum provide many of the same security assurances that you’ll find with the Ethereum mainnet.
Current NFT categories that are popular include collectibles, fan engagement, media rights, gaming, assets in the metaverse, and event ticketing. But just as VIN numbers have become universal in the transportation market, the digitization of virtual and physical goods via NFTs will broaden to touch every industry and sector.
The SKALE Network has the best architecture, combination of features, and ties with the Ethereum Mainnet to make it the place for minting, storing, transferring and maintaining NFTs.
A Note on Network Security
SKALE Chains are managed by up to 16 validator nodes. These nodes use a variant of the Asynchronous Binary Byzantine Agreement (ABBA) protocol, which has extensive robustness in the event of node downtime or network disruption. Validator nodes are randomly assigned to chains and frequently rotated between chains. This dynamic node selection and rotation mechanism adds an additional security layer to the Proof of Stake model, as it reduces the ability for nodes to collude (one of the criticisms of static Proof of Stake models).
Nodes are managed by an extensive set of validators who have staked (or bonded) significant value into the network – many of whom also serve as significant Eth2 validators. As of this writing, over $1B USD is staked into the SKALE Network by node validators. Many of these validators also take delegation, which makes them de facto fiduciaries of their delegators, further acting as a significant network safeguard. (Poor network performance and/or improper validator behavior puts delegated stakes at risk. The greater the risk to delegators, the greater the premium validators must pay to retain delegators and the greater the possibility delegators will move their stakes.)
The SKALE Network is built on both Ethereum and SKALE Nodes. A large portion of the SKALE Network operations, management, and administration happens via smart contracts that run on the Ethereum Mainnet. These contracts in turn manage and control the virtualized SKALE nodes and subnodes that facilitate the app-specific chains that make up SKALE’s multi-chain network. Additionally the SKL token is an ERC-777 token and all staking, chain fees, slashing, and governance happens on the Ethereum Mainnet. This allows the SKALE Network to focus on supporting the scalability of Ethereum dapps.